Oct 27, 2016

The Historic Citadel: a Walk through a Millenarian Fortress

Conjunto Monumental de la Alcazaba de Almería

Let's take a walk through the most emblematic parts of the Citadel of Almería, a monument with a history spanning more than a thousand years.

A brief history of the Citadel of Almería
The city of Almería was founded in the 10th century by the caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III as the defensive watchtower of the important city at that time, Pechina (hence the Arabic name Al-Mariyya Bayāna المرية بيانة).The city had a fortified castle or citadel and a wall surrounding the whole medina and its outskirts.

In 955 AD, Abd-ar-Rahman III, the first caliph of Al-Andalus, granted Almería city (madina) status and ordered the construction of the citadel, the Great Mosque and the fortification of the urban area between the fortress and the seashore. Under his protection, Almería became the most important port in Al-Andalus, the seat of the Omeya fleet, with great warships being built in its shipyards.

The excellent natural and strategic conditions of the place enabled sailors and traders to settle there.

Muslim texts describe Almería as the best market in Muslim Spain. Muslim merchants from Egypt and Syria moored in its port as did Christian traders from France and Italy. It developed substantially both economically and culturally in the 11th century as a center for trading relations with the Maghreb and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Its development was interrupted by the first Christian occupation of the city (1147-1157), causing a decline from which it has never since recovered.

Ten years later, the Almohad rulers settled in the citadel and tried to reinvigorate the city’s development but it never regained its former splendor.

During the Nasrid period, Almería became a port of call for goods destined for the Kingdom of Granada and work began on rehabilitating the city’s palace district.

As a result of Aragon’s expansionist policy in the Mediterranean, in 1489 El Zagal [the Nasrid Sultan of Granada] ceded the city to King Ferdinand and took the citadel, establishing a garrison there. At that point, it was decided to create another fortified area on the highest and most westerly part of the hill to fulfill the city’s new defensive needs.

From then on, the sea which had served to unite the two shores became a dangerous frontier where attacks by pirates were frequent.

A brief tour of the citadel
The citadel stands on an isolated hill which dominates the city and the bay of Almería. It is remarkable for its defensive capabilities and extensive view of the surrounding sea. The scale and complexity of its defenses is the result of its many functions throughout history, as a residence and as a representation of the power of the rulers of the city – a city of great economic and strategic importance throughout the Middle Ages, which became the capital of a Taifa Kingdom. The monumental complex of buildings is now divided into three sections: the first two of Islamic design and the third of Christian origin.

Although today it appears to be a garden, in Medieval times the first section was occupied by a tangled web of streets and houses, as recorded by the archaeological digs carried out there.

Some archaeological remains have been conserved, including a hydraulic system consisting of a well, a cistern, and a waterwheel which raised water from a depth of 70 meters in order to supply the area.

The Baluarte del Saliente [Promontory Bastion] stands at the eastern end of this area, a good place from which to view the city wall that encloses the ditch and hill of San Cristóbal [Saint Christopher], built during the reign of Khayran to defend the city’s new districts.

Through the great tower at the southern end of the Muro de la Vela, we enter the second section, the citadel’s basic nucleus, which formed a small city-palace and all its ancillary buildings and facilities: cisterns, mosque, public baths, houses and palace, with their public and private areas.

In this section we can visit the following: a cistern dating from the time of the caliphate – the 10th century – and the Mudéjar Hermitage of St. John – by that time a Christian building probably constructed on top of an earlier mosque.

As you can see in the illustration, this same area contains some recently excavated Nasrid houses.

In the 1960s, two Muslim houses were reconstructed opposite them.

Francisco Prieto-Moreno, architect and conservator of the Alhambra and the citadels of Malaga and Almería, worked in the complex until 1970, carrying out various operations with the aim of finding archaeological objects and other remains of architectonic structures in the area of the palace. The result of that romantic notion is what is known as the House of the Alcaide [Governor] and the courtyard in the second section.

This video gives us a brief history of the Muslim city of Almería.

The third section comprises a real Christian castle to which access is gained via a drawbridge.

There were three fundamental reasons for the construction of this castle: to resolve the city’s defensive problems because of the lamentable state into which the old fortress had fallen, to fulfill its new military requirements with the development of artillery and, above all, to create an emblematic image representative of the newly established Christian authority.

For that reason, a new and different architectural language was created, based on finely cut ashlars, semicircular towers and ball and cross loopholes located at ground level for the positioning of cannons, thus constituting visual elements expressing the ideology of the time.

The castle is assembled around the main courtyard, at the center of which lies a cistern and a silo that was sometimes used as a dungeon. The Torre del Homenaje [Homage Tower] dominates the right-hand side, followed by the Noria and Pólvora Towers, offering splendid views over the port and various old pieces of artillery.

The Homage Tower has a Gothic gate bearing the heraldic arms of the Catholic Monarchs. Its interior reflects its original function as a residence. Today, it is used as an exhibition hall displaying photographs provided by the Andalusian Photography Center.

From this area we can view the port and the ancient city, as well as some magnificent sunsets, making it easy to imagine what the medieval city once looked like.

Conjunto Monumental de la Alcazaba de Almería
Credits: Story

The historic citadel: a walk through a millenarian fortress

Organised by:
Conjunto Monumental de la Alcazaba de Almería
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucia

Conjunto Monumental de la Alcazaba de Almería.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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